Hawks win Class 4A girls soccer championship
Viera High girls soccer players happily sprint across the field following their 4-0 win over Pembroke Pines Charter, which gave the Hawks the Class 4A state championship
VIERA VOICE Carl Kotala
MELBOURNE – The gold medals hung around their necks like they were meant to be there all along.
And they probably won’t be coming off anytime soon.
“Well, it feels pretty good right now,” Viera High senior Tori Clark said with a smile. “I’m thinking I’ll sleep with it and wear it every day.”
Playing in the game they dreamed about for years, and worked so hard to reach this season, the Viera Girls soccer team made it look easy Saturday in the Class 4A state championship game against Pembroke Pines Charter.
Viera’s 4-0 win at Eastern Florida State College earned the Hawks the first state championship in program history. It’s the third team title (girls golf has won twice) the school has earned since it opened in 2006.
“I’m a really intense player, so I play it all the way through the game,” senior forward Hope Leonard said of the closing moments.
“I wasn’t even thinking, ‘Oh, we’re going to win. It flashed through my mind a couple of times, but I was most thinking about (staying in) the moment now. When I heard the crowd start going, ‘Five … Four ..’ I just turned around and went, ‘Yessssss!’”
Goals by Clark, Hollyn Knight, Nicki Fisher and Leonard helped seal the deal for the Hawks (20-2-0), but so did the defensive play of Sarah Sanford, Shannon Gosule, Fisher, Morgan Pulliam and goalkeeper Sydney Lau.
Viera marked Pembroke Pine Charter’s top two offensive players – Courtney Zaher and Adriana Robles – the entire game frustrating the Jaguars (21-2) to no end.
“They rock. They really do,” Hawks coach Courtney Lundy said. “The back four are solid, not to mention our outside backs that get up and attack. That’s nice, coming from the defensive side that we can get numbers up through them, and they still get back and defend.
“Sarah and Shannon have always been solid. I’ve watched them play for years. They’re a great team.”
What’s interesting to note is that while both Pembroke Pines coach Carlos Velazquez and his goalkeeper Patricia Yordan gave the Hawks all the credit for Saturday’s victory, they both thought the Jaguars may have celebrated their semifinal win a little too much.
“I think the girls, after yesterday, were feeling too good about themselves and maybe thought that was the championship,” Velazquez said. “They forgot that we had one more game, the biggest game in their career.”
While Velazquez thought his team came out flat, Viera was just the opposite.
Leonard said the Hawks tried to treat Saturday’s game like it was any other, knowing if they really stopped to think about what was at stake, they might get nervous.
“We came out so hard,” Clark said. “We were expecting a battle, so we definitely came out prepared. All we could think about was that we had each other’s backs. And that phrase that we tell each other before every game carried us throughout.”
Getting on top early helped, too.
Clark’s goal came inside the game’s first two minutes on a rebound in front of the Jaguars’ net.
“It rebounded and popped back out and I just (struck) it as hard as I could,” she said. “It was the best feeling ever.”
Knight would make it 2-0 in the 28th minute following a free kick by Leonard. The real dagger, though, came with just 24 seconds left in the first half when Fisher connected from long distance with a high arcing shot that went over the Jaguars goalkeeper.
“I guess I didn’t think about it,” Fisher said. “When I get the chance to shoot and I think, ‘Oh, I should get this,’ I always miss. But (this time), I didn’t think about it. I just shot it and I just kind of watched it drop in and I was like, ‘Oh my gosh. That just happened.’
“I don’t score very much, so it was pretty awesome.”
Leonard finished the scoring with a goal in the 63rd minute on an assist from Brookelyn Walsh.
What would follow 17 minutes later is something Lundy admitted she should have seen coming – the old Gatorade bucket bath.
“I don’t know how I didn’t know about it,” Lundy laughed. “I didn’t think about it. I was a player! I did it!”
Little did the coach know, the bath wasn’t just a spur of the moment decision by one or two players.
“It was all of our idea,” Clark said. “We’ve been planning that for a long time. We were waiting for that moment.”
It was a day to rejoice for a team that has been special all year, not just in the way it played, but in the way the players came together to form an uncommonly close bond and to pursue a common goal.
It may have taken a long time, and a lot of work to get to Saturday, but once they got there, they weren’t going to be denied.
“I’ve never been on a team this close,” Fisher said. “This is the most hard-working team I’ve been on, honestly. We just have the mentality of a champion.”